The Montreal Canadiens earned their sixth consecutive home win, and consequently handed the Washington Capitals their seventh straight road loss, in Montreal on Saturday night. Montreal got two goals from Alexei Kovalev, and goaltender Jaroslav Halak stopped 27 shots, for a 4-1 victory in front of 21,273 people at the Bell Centre.
Washington Capitals captain Chris Clark scored the game's opening goal. He tipped in a shot from Alexander Semin on a power play just 5:53 into the game. Clark extended his career best goals total to 29 for the season, and the Capitals had an early 1-0 lead. It was all Montreal from that point on.
Kovalev evened the score at one before the half-way point of the period. He got the puck behind the net, and managed to stuff it between the right goal post and Olaf Kolzig's skate.
Kovalev also scored the go ahead, and eventual game-winning goal on the power play in the second period. Saku Koivu's initial shot was stopped by Kolzig, but Kovalev wrapped in the rebound for his sixteenth of the season, and a 2-1 Montreal lead. That was all they would need.
Tomas Plekanec added another goal for the Canadiens in the second, and Michael Ryder potted his team-leading 25th goal in the third period, to round out the scoring.
Kolzig stopped 36 of 40 shots, and it was just the fourth time in eighteen games this season where Olie has faced 35-plus shots and not got the decision. After the game he said, "You have to give the Canadiens full marks, we didn't play bad, but we didn't play nearly as good as they did."
With the win, Montreal moved into a tie for the eighth and final playoff spot in the Eastern Conference. They are tied with the Carolina Hurricanes in points (84), but the Canadiens would get the nod by virtue of the fact that they have more wins (Montreal 39-31-6, Carolina 38-29-8). Montreal (76) has also played one game more than the Hurricanes (75). Both teams are just one point up on the New York Islanders (83 points - 74 games), and two points ahead of the Toronto Maple Leafs (82 points - 75 games). It definitely looks like the final playoff seeding will not be known until every regular season NHL game has been played.
The Capitals obviously aren't in that playoff hunt. They finished their three game road stand at 0-3 and still need six points in their last six games to better their 2005/06 point total. Washington will now return home for a game on Tuesday night against the league's top scorer Sid Crosby, and the Pittsburgh Penguins. Game time is 7:00pm at the Verizon Center and tickets are still available.